Manchester United @ Kuala Lumpur…


My goodness, the past weekend has been one of the best 3 days of my life. Words cannot describe all the emotions and feelings I felt seeing my beloved Manchester United team in the flesh. If you were to tell me before I embarked on my trip that I would be able to meet some of the players / backroom staff by chance at the hotel, I would have gladly snapped your arms off just to be in that situation.

But before I move on with this entry, let me just touch a bit on Anugerah Planet Muzik 2009 (APM 2009). I did not catch the show live as in years past, which became a traditional annual event for me since its inception in 2001. So to hope for any bits of information or juicy news by coming into this domain, I’m sorry but you came to the wrong place. Thank you for the jump in statistics though. Though I had taped the show since I did not have access to Astro Ria from the comfort of my hotel room in Kuala Lumpur, I have yet to watch it and won’t be doing so till much later.

My blog too has been a source of verbal joustings of late, between the Indonesian and Malaysian fans of the regional music scene, with each claiming that their industry is better than the other or complaining that APM in general, is unpopular in Indonesia. Interesting comments being made, but most were emotionally charged. Felt the urge to join in but really this is what we Malays call “menegakkan benang yang basah“, so I won’t bother joining in the debate since there is no end to it. You guys can read all the comments by clicking here if you’re interested.


The view from the hotel room…

Plans for this trip up north was made months ago when they first announced that United were to play their first pre-season on this part of the world since 2001. And based on where they stayed the last time out as well as teams like Chelsea and Newcastle United did when they were there years ago, it was only logical that I began making reservations at the posh Palace of the Golden Horses Hotel. Perhaps it was fortunate that the payment I made did not go through as days later, news came in that the team was to stay at the luxurious 6-star Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which is right smack in the city centre, next to the Petronas Twin Towers. I wasted no time in making the necessary bookings. Somehow I have to thank RIA 89.7FM for this, cos without the money I won in the “La-La-La Sambung” contest, I doubt I would have been able to experience staying at this plush hotel.


The pool area… Simply beautiful…

We set off on Friday morning at 8am, about an hour later from the time we had planned to embark. Traffic was pretty smooth at the Woodlands Checkpoint and how I wished most times it would be like that. We stopped for a short break at our favourite stopover, the overhead food haven at Ayer Keroh, Melaka. Being the A&W Root Beer Float sucker that I am, that was an absolute must to get. Over at the Al-Ikhwan Sports shop, I saw the new Manchester United jersey for the coming season and wondered if I should get it. But I passed up the chance and said, “Nah… I’ll wait till next season when the shirt sponsors change…” For those not in the know, United will have the words “AON” to replace “AIG” on their shirts next year.


The view from the other side of my room… That’s the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre on the left, the venue of last year’s APM2008 and where a certain Dato’ got married back in 2006…

It was also over at Ayer Keroh that I received a call from one of my friends, Zul, who asked for my whereabouts. He also updated me what time the players would be checking into the hotel. When he said “1pm”, I looked at the time and saw that it was still 11:20am and that I might be able to reach the hotel just in time to catch them coming in, before heading off for Friday prayers at the mosque adjacent to KLCC. So I sped off like a demon, alternating between driving at a speed of 140-170km/hr. Frankly speaking, I’ve never tried that before on the North-South highway. The most I went was 140km/hr. But it was good driving that fast cos I did not feel sleepy at all. However when I reached the Sungai Besi toll checkpoint, I received a call from my online friend, Malique, who informed me that the team had already arrived. That was about 12:30pm. No thanks to the lunchtime traffic, our journey was slowed down and we only reached the hotel about 1:40pm.


As we emerged at the hotel lobby from the carpark, we saw a crowd lining up outside one of the ballrooms (Pearl Room). I wondered what was the commotion all about and if there were any players inside. That’s when I saw some Telekom Malaysia (TM) staff selling Manchester United top-up cards and if we were to purchase them (it was RM200 by the way), we would be able to go into the ballroom and meet the players. I thought they had a lot to sell off so I went off to check into the hotel. But by the time I returned, the top-up cards were already sold out!!! Then I met Malique, my online friend, who was queueing along with the crowd. He said the TM staff had said that they would let them in if there are extra spaces inside. So we both ended up in the queue. We also made friends with the people around us. It was there that I learnt of what happened in Jakarta and thanked my lucky stars that I did not go there (to watch both APM2009 & United in action) cos I would have missed out on watching the team, since they cancelled the trip upon hearing the news.


For the uninitiated (2nd from left): Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick, John O’Shea and Ben Foster

At about 2.45pm, we saw four of the players – Ben Foster, John O’Shea, Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes – being whisked into the ballroom via another entrance. The crowd cheered cos they knew the doors would be opened anytime and opened it did within minutes. Once in, I said my thanks to God for not making me pay RM200 for something I didn’t need and still manage to see the players in the flesh. The affair was a short one which lasted about 15 minutes with the players answering questions from some of the fans and then presenting two of the TM staff with the latest Manchester United jersey with their names emblazoned at the back. The players also took time to personally get off the mini erected stage to take a photograph with little Aiman, a boy suffering from leukemia. When they were answering questions, the players looked a bit deadpan, probably due to jetlag, but the moment when they were asked to take a photograph with the boy, their faces lit up. There was genuine warmth in there and no signs of enforced PR exercise.


The players greeting little Aiman

Once that session was over, they got off the stage and went to the back. I knew they were going to leave from the direction they came in, so I made a dash out and waited, leaving Malique behind. I lost him in the sea of supporters who were jam-packed in the ballroom. Within seconds, the players walked out. I tried to take a photograph of them walking but they were too fast. They quickly dashed up the staircase along with the hotel security staff. Me and two others also made the dash up but we lost them when we reached the floor above us. It was there I saw another long-line of United-clad supporters queueing up outside the Grand Ballroom and wondered what it was about. The bad thing about not being a local was, you dunno what activities there were in store with the team and fans.


This was where the press conference was held. The room was actually well-lit as opposed to what you see here from my unprofessional photo-taking skills…

So I nonchalantly entered the Grand Ballroom hoping to find a way into the partitioned section of the room where the autograph signing was held. It was clear that the press conference was held at the Grand Ballroom earlier judging by the huge stage and long table where the important figures like Sir Alex Ferguson and United‘s CEO, Mr David Gill, sat, cos it had their names on it. Thanks to the opening of the partition dividing the ballroom into two, I entered it and saw right smack in front of me were five of the players – Anderson, Wayne Rooney, Jonathan Evans, Zoran Tosic and Fabio Da Silva in that order – seated signing autographs and taking pictures with the fortunate fans who had been queueing outside. I tried to go to the other side but was stopped by the security staff. So I left the room and made small talk with some of those queueing outside. It seems that to get in, you should either be invited or won some contest and to enter, you need to show them your invitational pass. I was like how in the world could I ever do that???


So I walked back and forth the area outside the ballroom, trying to find a way in. Ever since I was interested in the Malay entertainment scene, and being an ex-groupie, I took great pleasure in sneaking in where most people do not dare to venture. One of my most famous exploits was attending Anugerah Juara Lagu in 2000 without a ticket nor pass, but I ended up sitting with the VIP dignitaries that night just by wearing something formal and walking in without a hint of trespassing. I drew upon my previous experiences for inspiration as I thought this was a golden opportunity not to be missed cos I won’t know whether I would ever bump into them with such tight security around. So I made a silent prayer and hoped for miracle to come. And came it did.


I met four fans by the lift lobby over at the other side of the ballroom entrance from where I came from. They were all in the same predicament as me. We then saw a big door and wondered where it led to. It was a long way in and from where we were, we could see that it led to the kitchen. The rest were contemplating whether to go in or not. I just said, “What have we got to lose??? The only thing they can do is chase us away…” My words instantly perked them up and we made a quick dash in and ended up in the ballroom along with the rest who were queueing inside. The best part was, the security staff did not see us entering but one of the organising staff recognised one of us and asked him how did we get in. She just smiled and shook her head when the guy told her what we did. Immediately she instructed security to stand at the entrance where we entered but did not chase us away. I was just about to call Malique over but their actions put paid to my plans.

It was damn surreal being up close to the guys you see on television on a weekly basis. There was certainly no airs about them as one of our local scribes love to digress and report. They were tired from a long flight but they never lost their zest in meeting their fans. The most friendly and approachable had to be Wayne Rooney, but the rest (excluding Evans) could be forgiven for their lack of linguistic panache in English. Still they answered with warmth and that too after meeting hundreds of supporters who had entered the room. I was suprised by Anderson‘s English accent when I asked him how he was. He replied with a cheeky smile, “I’m good mate!!!” I was also chuffed to have met the guy who “stole” my number 14 jersey away, Zoran Tosic. For your information, the number 14 jersey had been vacant for quite some time before Tosic joined the team in January. Since it is my favourite number, I took the liberty to print my name on the jersey with the number on it and made believe that I was the missing player in the team. He grinned when I showed him I had his number on my jersey.

All these while, Aida, the kids and my in-laws were in the hotel room resting but since I did not have the room key to access the lift, the wife had to come down and wait for me outside the ballroom once I was done. I left the ballroom feeling satisfied cos I thought if I did not meet any of them again, this memory would have lasted long in my mind till the day I leave this world. But another surprise awaited me. The lift stopped on the second floor and lo!!! In walked United‘s latest signing and the guy who replaced the already departed Cristiano Ronaldo, none other than Michael Owen. I shook his hands as he came into the lift and welcomed him to United. Then I asked if I could take a photograph with him, he smiled and said “Ok, sure thing…” and Aida quickly snapped a photo of us before we reached our floor which was on the 10th floor. Before we left the lift, I managed to wish him all the best for the coming season ahead and he replied with a warm “Thank you…” He smiled when he looked at Syahindah, probably thinking of his daughter Gemma Rose back home in Cheshire, England.Actually there was another session with the players going on concurrently at the KLCC Binjai Park nearby but it was some distance away from the hotel and time was running short before I made my way to Bukit Jalil Stadium for the training session, so I skipped that. For the record, Darren Fletcher, Rio Ferdinand, Nani and Darron Gibson graced that event. After washing up and leaving at about 4:45pm, I met Malique and his family by chance again at the lobby and decided to go with them. I gave away the extra training pass belonging to Aida as she preferred to stay and rest at the hotel room. Managed to see Darren Fletcher and club captain Gary Neville coming out from the lifts and waited to board the coach on the way to the training session but it seemed they went the wrong way. I only got Fletcher to pose for me and snapped another whilst both of them were walking away.


Darren Fletcher gamely posed for me whilst captain Neville stood in the background…

The trip to Bukit Jalil, via the LRT network, took us approximately an hour, so by the time we reached the place, the training session was about an hour gone. It didn’t help that all of us were more interested in buying memorabilia being sold outside the stadium and that some of us had to finish our food and drinks before they allowed us to go in. I think I only managed to catch the last 10-15 minutes of the training session before leaving the place via LRT again. You might think it was a wasted trip but believe me, it was good to study how their public transport system works, in mind that the next day, the crowd would be about four times more than those who came during the training session. For the record, about 25,000 people watched the training session.




Left the hotel again at about 8:30pm to have dinner at Linda Onn‘s My Mom’s Chicken Rice shop at Ampang Point. Actually the place was quite near to our hotel but thanks to the traffic, we took about half an hour to get there. The place, though it has not changed from the last we were there two years ago, had revamped its menu sets and added a few new dishes. Still we came all the way just to savour the chicken rice which to me is much better than some of that being sold in Singapore. The soup at least has a rich flavour as compared to those here, which you sometimes feel as though you’re drinking plain water. The owner herself was not around as she had a show that night. It wasn’t an issue cos we were there more for the food. Anything more would have been a bonus.


When we reached back at the hotel, there was a number of fans waiting at the lobby. I thought the players were having some event or making an unofficial appearance or something but it seemed that the backroom staff along with United legends Sir Bobby Charlton and Paddy Crerand were having drinks at the pub. Sir Bobby was kinda disgruntled that they could not have a private moment what with all the fans clamouring outside, and made his feelings known to the hotel security. It was later on that I found out that he had been cranky the whole day as one of the cameramen had banged into the back of his head earlier. Anyway, the fans were also a bit too much. They should have at least respected the staff’s privacy. Bryan Robson, the original Captain Marvel, himself was mobbed and whisked away by the security staff. I did not stay long cos I was absolutely knackered, so I went up to turn in for the night.


Sir Bobby Charlton, a living legend for both England and Manchester United


Bryan Robson being mobbed by the fans…

Day 2

Woke up in the morning with a throbbing head as I woke up on the wrong side of bed. Still I had the energy to walk around the hotel just to see the pool area up close. I was also curious to see how the gym looked like. So I went down around 7:25am. I was surprised to see the same people from the backroom staff who were drinking the night before, working out at the gym. My eyes nearly popped out when I saw the back of someone who is synonymous to Manchester United on the exercise bike. Yes peeps, it was none other than the manager, the godfather of them all, Sir Alex Ferguson himself!!! As I wasn’t expecting to meet anyone when I went down, I did not bring my camera along. I immediately scooted back to my room to grab my camera cos this was definitely a chance of a lifetime to meet the man in person.


When I reached back downstairs, there were quite a few fans loitering around outside the gym, so as not to be seen with them, I walked along the pool area and saw Sir Alex now doing brisk walking on the treadmill. As he was facing the pool area, I walked into his view, turned and acted a bit surprised to see him and waved. He waved back and gave me a big smile. I decided to wait for him to end and just sat around the pool area. By then, those fans who were seen loitering around the area were chased away by the security staff. I was exempted cos I was a hotel guest. Whilst waiting, I struck up a conversation with the hotel staff stationed there. Malique too joined me for awhile but he had to leave to attend to his family.

At about 8:30am, Sir Alex emerged from the gym alone with one of the security staff. I went up to him, wished him a very good morning and asked if I could take a photograph with him. The anal security guy said no, but Sir Alex turned to him and said it was ok and he did not mind. Once the photograph was taken, I shook his hands and wished him all the best for the coming season ahead. He replied, “Thank you and all the best to you too, son!!!” That was it I felt!!! That was the ultimate moment of my trip, never mind I still had the match to watch in the evening. For him to veto the security guy was already good enough, but for him to reply like that was definitely the highlight of my trip. There were no airs about him and he was full of warmth. Forget stories about him being an authoritarian or a grumpy old so-and-so. It was a definite honour to have finally met him in person even though our encounter lasted less than a minute. He left me a deep impression on what an excellent character he is and no wonder why the players and fellow managers look up to him.

Somehow the encounter with the great man made me forget about breakfast and I felt quite full when I joined up with the family at the restaurant on the ground floor. Normally breakfast at the hotel is what I look forward to whenever I go abroad but not this time. Still I had some Nasi Lemak and scrambled eggs with buns, even tried some Arabian bread with hummus, which I did not fancy but still swallowed all the same. Saw Sir Bobby Charlton again having breakfast but did not dare to go up to him to have a photograph taken, perhaps mindful that he might snap again like the previous night. Anyway breakfast in general was so-so and could have been much better for a six-star hotel standard. I guess the best I’ve tasted so far in Kuala Lumpur was at the old Putra Pan-Pacific Hotel, which is now known as Best Western Premier Seri Pacific (Goodness what a mouthful!!!).


After breakfast I went up to have a dip in the pool, but not before bumping into John O’Shea in the lift on the way to the pool area. I did not bring my camera along as Aida was holding on to it and was only coming down to the pool a bit later than me. I just smiled and nodded at Sheasy. When I reached the pool area, Malique and his family were already there. Did not spend long as the agenda of the day was to shop at KLCC before heading off to Bukit Jalil Stadium to watch the game. Aida had forgotten to bring the kids’ swimsuits along, so it was kinda sad for them to just sit on the chairs and watched their father swimming. Since they went up earlier than I did, I did not have a camera with me. Which was a pity as when I exited the pool area and made my way to the lift, out walked Michael Owen, Fabio, Michael Carrick, John O’Shea and Paul Scholes who were on their way to the gym for a light stretching session. Even if I had my camera with me, I don’t think I was allowed to take photographs as the security staff had warned me not to take any. He must have been blind since I did not have one with me in the first place!!!

So off I went to KLCC with the family henceforth. By then my throbbing head was getting worse. It always happens when I wake up on the wrong side. So I told the family to go ahead without me while I settled some stuff and then return to the hotel to rest. As much as I had resisted buying the new season’s jersey, the temptations were just too much to withstand seeing a lot of people wearing them and how nice it would be to wear to the stadium later in the evening. And so I went to the NIKE boutique on the 3rd floor and bought one for myself as well as one for Syahindah, her very first United jersey. After buying lunch at the foodcourt upstairs and Panadol over at Watsons, I headed back to the hotel to get some much needed rest. The family only came back about 3pm and it was a mad rush getting ready as the original plan was to leave for the stadium at 3:30pm. At that point in time all of us had not taken lunch, me included, even though I came back at about 1:20pm. But the one hour plus rest did me good as I woke up feeling fresh and the headache was gone!!!



Aida and I only left the hotel at about 3:50pm (my in-laws stayed behind with the kids) and it was crazy over at the Masjid Jamek station where we had to transfer trains to get to Bukit Jalil. There was a huge crowd queueing to get two-way tickets and as you can guess, a lot of them were decked in Manchester United jerseys. Good sense prevailed when the staff there opened a few more counters, thus easing the movement at the station. We managed to reach the stadium at about 5pm. It was an extremly colourful carnival atmosphere outside the stadium, with hawkers hawking their wares, ranging from football paraphernalia to food. We got in and sat at our seats about five minutes before kick-off. To tell you the truth, I felt cheated by the seating arrangements. Paying RM308 each for our numbered seats, we had expected to sit closer to the field but no, we were on the second tier and closer to the third one. It seems those who paid RM308 in places outside Kuala Lumpur would have been allocated seats on the second tier. Had I known this would happen, I would have asked any one of my friends in KL to buy for me first. Oh well, at least our seats were assured even though we were late.



I wouldn’t relate the match to you per se, but you can go to YouTube to watch the highlights on how the match went. I was generally impressed by the Malaysian side whose counter-attacking tactics paid dividends, especially against a Manchester United team that was visibly tired due to the heat and lack of acclimatisation. It could have been a rout had the Malaysian goalkeeper not executed two world-class saves in the first half and Rooney missing another in the second. Anderson and Nani, much pilloried last season for being inconsistent and ineffective, showed signs that they were out to atone for last season’s mistakes. The former showed why he was once touted as a future midfield general for the team with his timely tackles and excellent distribution of the ball. One such pass with the outside of his foot left the crowd gasping in delight at how measured it was. The same could not be said of Paul Scholes though. His passes were wayward most of the time and he missed a bulk of the tackles he executed. I for one think, his time is up and he should make way for younger players to blossom in the team.


Seen in the crowd, four guys impersonating the four Sikhs who are season ticket holders at Old Trafford


The real McCoys…

But the highlight for the crowd had to be watching the debut of Michael Owen in a United shirt and witnessing his first goal for the team, which proved to be the winner. Seeing the players mobbing him after he scored showed how much they welcomed him to the team. As it was my first time watching a football match in a stadium of that capacity (100,000), I felt as though I was watching a World Cup match cos it certainly felt like that with the sea of red shirts in the stands, screaming, cheering and sounding the airhorns. Speaking of airhorns, whenever they were sounded, nobody followed that up with the usual vulgarity we seem to hear when watching a match in Singapore. But later on in the game, I could hear them being chanted when the airhorns were sounded. I presumed those who did that must be Singaporeans.


A pivotal moment in the history of Manchester United seeing Michael Owen making his debut for the club…


Owen was mobbed by his team-mates after scoring the winning goal…

The moment I took a photo of the players celebrating Owen‘s winning goal, my camera switched off on its own as the battery was exhausted. So since I could not take anymore photos, Aida and I left the stadium the moment the final whistle was blown. We literally ran back to the LRT station to beat the crowd but a huge one had already stationed themselves there. It was a pity the battery was exhausted as we missed seeing the players doing their lap of honour around the stadium. In the train along the way back to Masjid Jamek station, we struck up a conversation with a couple from South of Manchester, England. They had reached Kuala Lumpur at 4pm, heard that the team was in town and decided to catch the game. And to think they were not United fans in the first place. Simply amazing!!!

The players returning to the hotel…

Upon reaching KLCC, we went to buy tidbits for our family and colleagues back home over at the Famous Amos outlet. This was then followed by getting dinner over at Manhattan Fish Market. As the waiting time was long, we returned to the hotel just in time to see the players returning from the match. Since the camera was dead, I took this video clip of them arriving via my camera phone. They were all whisked off to a private function room over at the 2nd floor and it was out of bounds to the public. Anyone who tried to go there were promptly chased away. I knew cos I was one of them hahahahah… I ended up going up to the room and returning to KLCC to collect our food along with Aida and the kids, leaving my in-laws to rest. But when we got back, I immediately went down to the pool area to have a dip in it as well as the jacuzzi. It was pure bliss the moment I stepped into the hot pool. A pity the pool closed at 10pm or I could have spent a little longer in there just resting my feet.

After dinner, and when the kids were already asleep, Aida and I went down again, this time to take photographs of the Petronas Twin Towers which look so radiant and a sight to behold at night. We had to be quick as the lights are switched off at the stroke of midnight every night. Bumped into Malique and his family on their way back from dinner and chatted with them for awhile before we turned in for the night.


Day 3

The last day was relatively the same routine as the previous day, minus the swimming and meeting any players or backroom staff at the gym. I guessed my luck ran out the moment I met Sir Alex as meeting him in person had already been the ultimate moment of the trip. I guess if dreams were to become a reality, I would jump at the chance of serving the team as a backroom staff, never mind not being a player. The opportunity to watch the team on a daily basis and being paid to travel the world is good enough already for me. Trust me, these guys who are paid to play football for a living are freaking lucky. They are paid to be fit, paid to see the world, paid to play in magnificent stadiums. I would kill to have a career like that knowing that I could retire the moment I hang up my boots.


The gentleman in the centre is Paddy Crerand, another United legend…

We checked out from the hotel at 11:20am and was on our way back to Singapore by noon. I had targeted to reach at 5pm, so that I could return in time for my weekend dosage of football. Some miscommunication happened along the way and we ended up not having enough money to pay the toll once we were to reach Skudai. When we realised that, we were just about to clear the Sungai Besi toll checkpoint. The worse part was every stop we made, there were no money changers nor ATMs along the way. Even the one at Ayer Keroh was spoilt. But as luck would have it, my father-in-law was able to extract money from the ATM machine at Machap so we were fortunate to pay the toll without having to pay in our currency. We reached Singapore slightly before 4pm and taking into account the number of stops we made, the whole journey actually took about three hours, thanks to my speeding along the highway at speeds between 140-180km/hr. A word of caution, please don’t try this as it might damage your car in the long run and I doubt I would do it again myself.


Syahindah posing with her United jersey…

That ends my past weekend’s experience meeting my beloved team in the flesh. I had uploaded the whole picture album in my Facebook account which is private and meant only for my contacts to view. The ones I’ve included in this entry are considered the best, especially to those who had wanted to make it to the trip but could not. I guess my experiences in meeting the players were inspiring enough, cos I heard my elder sister and cousins who are staunch supporters of that team coming to town this weekend are trying hard to secure a room in the same hotel as the team, in the hope of meeting the players. Good luck to them and try beating the security staff who are much tougher here than in Kuala Lumpur

Author: Pujangga Malam™

Well-known on RIA 89.7FM as a controversial and sensational critic able to invoke thought-provoking and sometimes, fiery responses from fellow listeners. Have since evolved into a distinguished blogger of reputable claim with takes on the Malay entertainment industry and football-related matters. Brutally honest and believes in only reporting the truth as I see, hear or experience it. Self-styled critic who does not mince his words and is definitely a non-conformist.

One thought on “Manchester United @ Kuala Lumpur…”

  1. Hi PM,

    Greetings! Thanks for sharing your amazing experiences with the Red Devils @ KL…
    It’s really awesome. I’m so ecstatic upon reading thru your detailed encounters…
    Felt as if I was also there… Too bad I was not able to make it for the trip myself.

    I did met them when they were here in 2001… the year when I had my Os… Haha!
    The security @ ShangRi La was super tight… think Msia still okay…

    Oh yeah, the hotel which you stayed looks fab esp the pool… Glad ur dreams came true…

    Hope United does well this coming new season. InsyaAllah…


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